Cyclovia a Highlight of April’s Bike Fest
April 9, 2015
by Brad Poole
If you like bikes, your month is at hand.
April is Bike Fest time in Tucson, and dozens of events are scheduled throughout the month to give you a chance to indulge. Whether you’re a spandex-wearing, clipped-in cyclist or an urban hipster commuter, there is something for you during Bike Fest.
The centerpiece of the month is Cyclovia on April 19, when 5 miles of city streets between Downtown and South Tucson will be closed to cars.
Bike Fest and Cyclovia are projects of the Living Streets Alliance, a group founded in 2011 to help shift our culture away from cars and get people back into the streets on bikes, feet and public transportation.
But the Alliance is not a cycling group. The group takes a comprehensive approach to bike transportation from many perspectives – public health, urban planning, economic development, public policy and more.
Cyclovia – a sprawling festival in itself with scores of vendors, entertainment, and activities – has been gaining traction since the first one here five years ago, said Kylie Walzak, Cyclovia coordinator for the Living Streets Alliance.
“It’s been growing by about 50 percent every time we do one,” Walzak said.
Cyclovia started in South America, where more than 2 million residents of Bogota, Colombia take over more than 50 miles of closed streets every week. The idea has spread around the globe, including to more than 100 cities in the United States.
In Los Angeles, backing from the regional transportation entity METRO Los Angeles has led to numerous events in several parts of the city. Walzak and the Living Streets Alliance would like to see a similar expansion here, she said.
This is the fifth year for the Downtown-South Tucson route, which starts at Broadway and 6th Avenue, then splits at 13th Street and heads south along 4th and 8th Avenues to 34th Street. All of those streets will be closed to traffic.
One key goal is economic development, bringing Tucsonans closer to shops and restaurants they might otherwise bypass, Walzak said.
“What Cyclovia Tucson is about is getting out of your car to check out some of these businesses,” she said.
The Bike Fest calendar of events includes something for everyone – kids, teens, adults, adults who want to feel like kids, kids who want to feel grown up.
There are bike-in movies (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is Friday) a circus costume parade (glittery circus tights and scary clowns encouraged), several casual group rides, and a picnic dinner ride to Mission Gardens, which is a demonstration garden featuring crops grown in and around Tucson over the past 4,100 years.
Cyclovia and the Alliance hope to encourage people to reclaim their streets from cars, if you will. The Alliance believes our culture has become so car-centric that streets are becoming barriers to interaction, instead of avenues for it.
Although Tucson is very bike friendly – we earned a Gold rating from the League of American Bicyclists – the Alliance wants to ensure that our leaders in government keep it that way. One of their goals is to remove barriers to bike use.
“The biggest barrier is safety,” Walzak said, referring to the fear many folks have about riding on city streets. Cyclovia takes that out of the picture, so people can relax and enjoy the ride.
Having adequate bike lanes, routes and traffic control helps with safety, too, and the Alliance works with public agencies like the City of Tucson and Pima Association of Governments – both major transportation planning entities – to keep non-motorized transportation relevant.
Events like Cyclovia help with familiarity and education – there will be many booths offering bike information from every angle.
Another key event during Bike fest is the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association’s spring Bicycle Swap Meet. The swap meet is 7 a.m.-3 p.m. on April 12 at the intersection of 7th Street and 5th Avenue. The bike-only swap meet is a great place to find bargains or unburden your garage of some of those old bikes (it’s also a good chance to get out and ride one of them).
Bike-themed movies will be shown through the month – all presented on a biked-in screen and sound system. Organizers are biking in a camp stove to make popcorn. Bring a blanket to sit on.
Plans also call for an April 15 bike trip via the Loop and Canada del Oro bike path to Catalina State Park for a family-friendly camp-out. That trip requires at least 20 people to happen, so go to the Bike Fest website to sign up.
Bike Fest runs through the end of April, and Cyclovia is a one-day event April 19.